Autumn is the time of letting go and inward nourishment. Nature reflects it beautifully as the nutrients from the leaves move down into the roots of the trees, causing the leaves to turn vivid orange and yellow to brown and eventually fall away. The ‘dead’ leaves begin to decompose to create a fertile ground and leave the potential for fresh growth in the spring.
Similarly, the human body naturally wants to let go, introvert, and begin a season of inward focus. The autumn months are about slowing down the momentum of growth – it’s a time for our bodies to harvest and gather energy. Autumn is the beginning of the yin cycle, the inward feminine energy, coming more inside your body and mind for introspection, reviewing areas of your life and organizing yourself for the winter season ahead.
In traditional Chinese medicine, the season of autumn is associated with the element of Metal, which is characterized by the colour white and governs the lungs, and large intestine. It is also linked to organization, order, communication, the mind, setting limits, protecting boundaries and the emotions grief and nostalgia. It’s a good time to finish projects that you began in spring and summer, declutter, cleanse and tie up loose ends.
The lung and large intestine are the internal organs related to Autumn and the Metal element. Waking between 3-5am can mean an imbalance in these organs. Lung is associated with the emotion of grief. The lungs expel carbon dioxide and the large intestines solid residue. If the intestines are not eliminating frequently it can have an effect on the skin. The skin is known as the third lung.
One of the best ways to strengthen the lungs is to breathe deeply. This can also affect things like our memory, energy level and immune system. Various systems of self-mastery teach that by controlling your breath, you can achieve and maintain physical vigour, mental clarity and emotional tranquillity. Breath work practices are very nourishing and healing for the lungs and the whole body.
Go for a walk outside, soak up the beautiful autumn colours and breath in the crisp air. Doing this will strengthen your lungs while also helping you achieve mental clarity and emotional balance. In classical Chinese medicine, the lung is described as “the receiver of the pure Qi from the Heavens”. When the lung (Metal) energy is out of balance the body begins to stiffen up. That’s when we can become more prone to infection.
The nose is the opening to the lungs, and you can prevent colds by keeping your nose and sinuses clean and clear. Using a neti pot with some sea salt and water helps rid the nose of excess mucus.
Sleep is another important aspect of staying healthy in Autumn. The ancients advised that people should retire early at night and rise early during this phase. At least try to make time for stretching, meditation and relaxation. Traditional Chinese Medicine says that this is the time of the year when the spirit is more accessible so just take a few minutes to do nothing at all and create an inner stillness.
What you eat also greatly affects the health of your lungs and colon. Eating excess cold and raw foods creates dampness or phlegm which is produced by the spleen and stored by the lungs. Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, cream, and butter also create phlegm. Heartier soups and stews are better at this time of the year. You should also try to include more sweet potato, cabbage, pears, walnuts, rice, cinnamon, leeks, beans, asparagus, broccoli, greens, apples, plums, grapes as well as moderate amounts of pungent foods like garlic, onions, ginger, horseradish and mustard into your diet as they are also beneficial to the lungs.
The colon is the second organ in the Metal element and is responsible for eliminating what is unnecessary and toxic from our bodies. However, in addition to physical waste, we also need to eliminate mental and spiritual rubbish. Focus on releasing old limiting beliefs and behaviours that don’t serve you. The large intestine holds the sway over courage and fortitude like the phrase “to have the guts” to do something.
The intestine is continually working on the waste in the body and ‘chewing’ things over, the mind does the same thing psychologically. Petty behaviours, holding on to negativity and continual dissatisfaction are some of the behaviour patterns.
You might want to consider doing a gentle cleanse by fasting to give your body time to eliminate toxins. Don’t fast for too long, but rather eat healthy fruits and vegetables. The most important foods for the colon are vegetables and fibre.
Also remember to drink plenty of clean spring water. As autumn is associated with dryness, it’s important to hydrate. Water will promote healthier bowel movements and the flow of Qi in the body.
The lung and the colon work hand in hand – one taking in the pure, the other eliminating waste. But if waste builds up and we can’t take in purity (when our Metal energy is out of balance), we are more likely to feel stubborn, depressed, stagnant, isolated and unfulfilled – feelings commonly associated with autumn and winter.
Large Intestine Support:
Other Foods that Support the Metal Element:
Other Practices to Support you in Autumn:
Acupuncture – Can strengthen your Qi and your immune system before the onset of winter.
Journaling – To process emotions and release.
Qi Gong- The ancient Taoists developed a practical discipline called Qi Gong to increase vitality, extend lifespan, and prevent disease. This is a powerful skill to practice to support you in autumn and winter.
Keep Warm – Protect your back, neck and kidneys from the cold and wind to maintain Qi and protect your system.